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Suppose a non-believer is open to the possibility that God and the things of the Spirit might exist, but acknowledges that for them subjectively God appears to be hidden and thus feels unable to perceive and understand spiritual matters, fitting the description of spiritual blindness. If a non-believer in such a state is proactively interested in opening their "spiritual sight", so to speak, and overcome their spiritual blindness, what would they need to do to accomplish that goal, from a Christian perspective on the issue?

I ask this as a follow-up to my last question, Is there a Christian term for the condition of a person who is unable to experience a spiritual connection with God?.

Regarding the definition of spiritual blindness, I'm borrowing the definition from GotQuestions.org:

To be spiritually blind is not to see Christ, and not to see Christ is not to see God (Colossians 1:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Spiritual blindness is a grievous condition experienced by those who do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, and His Word (Romans 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:12). Those who reject Christ are the lost (John 6:68-69). Being spiritually blind, they are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Revelation 3:17). They choose not to accept the teachings of Christ and His authority in their lives (Matthew 28:18). They are blind to the manifestations of God as revealed throughout His Word and Jesus Christ (John 1:1; Acts 28:26-27). They are described as those who “do not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-blindness.html

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The first step in true religion is that required by John the Baptist - he that hath two coats, give to him that hath none and likewise with meat, Luke 3:11.

If one does not love one's neighbour whom one can see, it is sheer hypocrisy to pretend to 'love' the divine whom one cannot see, 1 John 4:20.

One is to repent, first, towards one's fellow humanity. And this is why many 'cannot find God' (whom they cannot see). It is because they despise and neglect their fellows, out of hard-heartedness . . . . from which they must repent if ever they would find him that is invisible.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out [Acts 3:19 KJV]

. . . . . after which, the sins being blotted out, one may enter into the presence of God, who is holy.

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  • + 1 That is a profound answer. But does it suggest that good works take precedence over faith in terms of curing spiritual blindness.? Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 20:16
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    @DanFefferman Not at all, for repentance is a gift, as is faith. We have nothing that we have not received.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 20:21
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    anyway, thanks for this answer. It surprised me and stimulated me to think more deeply. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 20:54
  • @DanFefferman Glad to be of service. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 21:00
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This post will address the question from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; most of the principles though are consistent with beliefs found in many Christian faiths.

#1 - Repentance

The Holy Ghost speaks with a still, small voice; the natural man screams very loud. We can easily put ourselves in a position where we are not in tune with the Spirit and cannot readily receive its promptings. Like an old-fashioned radio, if we are having trouble picking up the signal, before we assume the broadcast tower is broken, we do well to examine our receiver.1

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifically identified 2 of the most common, natural-man tendencies, that are at odds with God's nature and will therefore drive away the Holy Ghost:

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22 -- note that there are arguments that the words "without a cause" are not in the original text)

AND

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Anger & lust are very effective at limiting our spiritual reception.

A strong caution is given by King Benjamin:

And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved-

I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God: therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righeousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. (Mosiah 2:36-37)

We can limit our ability to receive the Holy Ghost through our own choices -- the antidote to this is repentance. When we bring our lives more in harmony with the Lord's teachings and keep the natural man in check we will better be able to understand spiritual things:

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

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#2 - The Parable of Growing a Tree

There is a full sermon in the Book of Mormon that addresses this subject. Alma compared the word of God to a seed that grows into a great tree. A few key passages from Alma 32:27-43 below (emphasis mine):

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe...

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell...as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good...And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good...

...and now behold, after...[this] is your knowledge perfect? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good...

And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

(See the full passage for a more detailed discussion of the experiment Alma recommends).

The criteria to try Alma's experiment are simple:

  • A particle of faith
  • A mere desire to believe
  • Diligence

And then he asks people to put God's words to the test. This principle is taught succinctly by the Savior in John:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

Note that this isn't an invitation to try something indefinitely until it succeeds. This is an invitation to live the Christian life, keep the commandments, and put in practice the Lord's teachings, and then see the results that come from it.

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#3 - Ask, and Expect Personal Revelation to be Personalized

Nephi taught that God speaks to people in a manner they understand.

For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding. (2 Nephi 31:3)

To someone with a highly logical mind, God may teach things logically. To someone who learns through patterns, God may teach by showing patterns. I teach my own children in different ways based on what helps them learn. God is a way better father than I am and He is a master of this principle.

Finally, the invitation oft-repeated in the scriptures is simple: Ask.

Ask, and it shall be given (Matthew 7:5)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally (James 1:5)

If one is seeking to be worthy of the influence of the Holy Ghost and diligently trying to live after the pattern the Lord has given, why not ask God in prayer what inspiration from the Holy Ghost feels like?



1 I certainly do not claim perfection in this regard. When I find that I am struggling to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost, invariably I find that I have been slack in doing things which invite the Holy Ghost.

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The answer is not the same for every person. Each person takes his own pathway. Here are three common examples:

  • Faith. The person takes a leap of faith from unbelief to belief. Some who simply recite the sinner's prayer and declare their intent to receive Jesus immediately have powerful spiritual experiences.

  • Love. @Nigel's answer is an example of this path. By loving one's neighbor and doing works of charity, a person creates a foundation in what James calls "true religion." Some people attain spiritual sight by coming to see the face of God in one's neighbor.

  • Hope. @GratefulDisciple shows us this path when he suggests: "ask God for the grace for the ability to see blockages in one's soul so one can repent and then clearing the way for the mustard seed of faith."

No doubt there are other "gateways" that one could discern. I know of science-oriented people who came to an "aha" moment through their studies. This might be called the gate of Truth. In my case I had an sudden epiphany listening to music after months of searching as teenager. This might be called the gate of Revelation. Others inherit their faith from their family. This could be called the gate of Loyalty or Tradition.

Ultimately, God calls whom he calls, and there is no formula that works for everyone. Yet Jesus taught:

Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; [e]knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

So perhaps it is a matter of finding the right door, or at least the right path that leads to the door. The Book of Revelation speaks of the New Jerusalem having 12 gates. (Revelation 21:12) They are marked for each of the tribes of Israel, but this could also symbolize 12 paths to spiritual sight. One person's gateway may not be the same as another's.

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The answer is: ask God for the grace for the ability to see blockages in one's soul so one can repent and then clearing the way for the mustard seed of faith, understood as God's gift of the light of faith to accept the Christian truths proposed for belief. (For the meaning of "light of faith" see additional point #2 below.)

Then ask God to give us the grace to build up "faith":

  1. so we can "know" and "see" (mentally) God better, as gradations toward the Beatific Vision
  2. to animate our love, since God is love, producing fruits that we can see
  3. to feel God more tangibly, since once we have accepted God into our soul the Trinitarian life IS given to us and is already present objectively although may be dim to us subjectively (esp. if God decides to give us the purification experience of the dark night of the soul)

I find Fr. Dominic Legge's lecture Divine Indwelling and the Presence of God really helpful. He starts with giving us the assurance that as priest he can be bold to write us a check that God will surely pay when we go to the bank since it is based on Jesus's promise in John 14:18,20,23 (RSV):

18 “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.


Here are additional points from which I may develop a fuller answer later:

  1. A video about divine hiddenness and non-resistant believers by Dr. Ortlund (in which he states opinions backed by academic references, he himself having written several books published by academic imprints): Divine Hiddenness: My Response to Alex O'Connor.
  2. Unfortunately Christians use the word "faith" ambiguously, so it's a point to clarify. In my answer, I would use the sense of "light of faith" vs. "light of reason", which doesn't exclude other meanings of faith, especially how it is used by Jesus (i.e. faith started as a mustard seed and can grow, the faith of the Centurion that is greater than Israelites, your faith has saved you, etc.) This talk The Light of Reason and the Light of Faith by Fr. Dominic Legge and a related one, the final talk The Search for Wisdom and the Light of Christ from the 10th Annual Aquinas Philosophy Workshop on Knowledge, Truth, and Wisdom in Aquinas, would be the basis for my answer.
  3. Soul vs. brain where I propose that faith resides in the soul with optional manifestation in the brain. I'm going to expand my earlier answer about "spiritual blindness" (which BTW may not be an appropriate term for the OP's condition).
  4. subjective (what we are aware of) and objective (what God is doing) are independent tracks, at least from theological point of view. For example, it's a common theme in Reformed theology that the logical ordo salutis can be experienced in a believer in a different sequence, yielding in some subjective awareness of "assurance of salvation", thus providing room when someone may not (subjectively) feel anything (yet) but in fact (objectively) is a member of the Elect.
  5. Eleonore Stump's 13-minute video answer to the question How Does Salvation Work? which I cannot recommend highly enough, in which she proposes a 3rd state "to cease resisting" (which is not properly an act of the will, in contrast to "the will saying 'no'" and "the will saying 'yes'") and therefore is at least open to (passively) receiving God's grace of faith as a person who has "hit bottom" realizing he/she has a deep problem with the soul that only God can fix. That 3rd state has been a major topic in her academic work, so it's quite easy to find journal articles she wrote on this (to which other philosophers offered refinement). This will be another major source for my answer.
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Rather than address your question from the perspective of what an individual should do (the series of actions they should take), I'd like to suggest a rationale of why a spiritually person can overcome spiritual blindness.

This is provided from the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

From the LDS perspective, spiritual blindness isn't best symbolized by a physically blind person, but rather by someone who's chosen to close their eyes.

Hebrews 12:9

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

Psalm 82:6

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

We believe that our spirits are literally born (or created, if you will) by God. Next, we believe in the Light of Christ. This is not the Holy Ghost, which we believe is an individual seperate and distinct from our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Doctrine & Covenants 88:12-13

Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

John 1:6-9

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

Moroni 7:16

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Remember, we believe that the Holy Ghost is an individual and that the Light of Christ (Spirit of Christ) is something else, more akin to humanity's concept of a concience. We are all born with the Light (Spirit) of Christ, which gives us the power to judge good from evil — even when we're swimming in the consequences of evil choices.

Which is why, from our perspective, your question doesn't make sense. A spiritually blind person is not one who has lost the ability to spiritually see — begging the question, how can they overcome their blindness? — they're merely someone who needs help choosing to open their spiritual eyes.

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    Interesting perspective, but then it's easy to reword the question to match your premises: How can non-believers, who currently fail to perceive and understand the things of the Spirit, choose to open their spiritual eyes? How can that choosing be done? Would you still object to offering concrete steps as an answer to that question?
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 6:43
  • @Mark I don't understand your defensive reaction. I'm not objecting to others providing concrete steps. I'm merely providing a perspective based on what your question says (go re-read your first sentence). Yes, I chose not to worry about rehashing the question in your first paragraph, but instread added a perspective that justifies why all the other answers would work in the first place. If none of that is valuable to you, you're welcome to down vote the answer.
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 6:13
  • If from a LDS perspective the original question doesn't make sense, how do you explain this answer from a fellow LDS believer?
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 10:25

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